Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Next Wave

In February and early March, I had the opportunity to teach my first college-level course. My audience was student teachers and the topic was effective data use.

I was both excited and a little terrified. It was a great opportunity to share some learning on an important topic that doesn't often get much attention as teachers prepare to join the workforce. But, it was designated as a 10-hour elective, so I made myself think of it as an extended workshop. A few years ago, I did a Data Academy in my district that consisted of six 90-minute it didn't feel like too big of a stretch to do five 2-hour sessions. Since the Data Academy, I have also developed and presented a lot of other content at various conferences and in other spaces. The twist on all of this was that I needed to target an entirely new audience.

I used a framework from this article to organize the course: Mandinach, E. B., & Gummer, E. S. (2016). What does it mean for teachers to be data literate: Laying out the skills, knowledge, and dispositions. Teaching and Teacher Education, 60, 366-376. During the first session, I had the students identify their level of familiarity with each of the five major areas of the framework, along with the items under each that they'd most like to learn. This provided me with some direction for the rest of the sessions.

You can access my course materials here:

How it all went down
I didn't do much in the way of assignments. I asked them to read two research articles and we used two examples from Observe, Collect, Draw to provide them with some practice collecting and representing data. I really just wanted them to immerse themselves in the discussions during our time together. It was, after all, an elective...and they were plenty stressed out with other coursework. I wanted them to have a positive experience with data.

We also did some activities modified from the Data Therapy project. These included the paper spreadsheet, find a story, and build a sculpture. I had been wanting to try some of these for awhile and hadn't had a group for this. My favourite was the sculpture activity. I've had the coloured blocks and tiles for a couple of years and it was great to provide them, along with some data, and have small groups of students physically model a story they thought was important to tell from the data. I didn't allow them to write or annotate until the very end. (We did three rounds of data/revision.) I really enjoyed hearing their thoughts about that experience. Many of them noticed the same things that I have about manipulating data physically with your hands. It's such a powerful and personal experience. Magical.

Lessons learned
I think I did an okay job. Most of the time, I paced things well and brought the right resources. As always, I should have aimed for "Less me, more them." I would have liked to structure the discussions a bit better and given them more time to practice using data when we were together. We didn't have access to a computer lab and not everyone had a laptop, so I didn't spend any time on Excel basics, which I think would have been one of the most useful things to send them out the door with. But, I did give them some rich opportunities to think with data...and that will serve them well.

I heard from a professor in the program that students talked about my class a lot in their other classes...that they were showing her lots of great pictures of their work...and that a few had said it was the highlight of the winter quarter for them. The students themselves gave me a wonderful thank you card, a $50 gift card, and a little notebook to use for capturing data. Very sweet of them!

I don't know if I'll get the opportunity to teach the class again. This particular format was brand new for the university and they will need to evaluate its success before making decisions about next year. I am so grateful for the opportunity...and also that I was able to finish the class just moments before the transition to all classes being online. I greatly enjoyed being with these almost-beginning teachers. The next wave coming to our classrooms is going to be amazing.

I was taking a break from presenting this year. And then I got asked to share some of my data stories at a conference session in December...and asked to develop this university course...and a couple of other things, too. I said "Yes" to all of them, even if they were daunting. I am glad that as the world becomes more closed for the next year or so that I had the opportunity to reach out in those ways. I have to believe that there will be chances to do so again. I hope all of you are finding ways to share and connect and celebrate learning from wherever you are holding in place.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Pause. Breathe. Rest. Fight.

Well, there is apparently one thing that can stop a dream in its tracks: COVID-19.

After months of planning and getting ready for our big community data story for the spring Arts's canceled. And while I am in 100% supportive of the decision to cancel the event, I also know that it is okay to express personal disappointment. I am grateful that I'm (currently) are all my friends and extended family...but I admit that I'm quite sad about having to postpone things.

I know it isn't forever. When this pandemic is over, there will be other Arts Walk. We will finish the project, even if it doesn't go on display for awhile.

So, let me tell you just how far we got and what we've been learning along the way. If you need to catch up on the background of this project, you can read an overview or my first reflection on the process.

During the month of February, my assistant and I built relationships with all of the six Boys and Girls Clubs in our county. We visited each one in person to talk about the project and get input from directors about the needs they were seeing with students. By the end of the month, we had returned to four of the clubs to conduct focus groups with K - 12 students. Our conversations were framed around the role of neighbours and friends in their lives. For older students, we also devoted part of the conversation to the community at large.

Some interesting things came out of these conversations. For example, in every group a single (and unexpected) statement was made: We had to move because our neighbours were too loud. We heard this from urban students who live in apartments and rural kids who live in trailers that are out in the woods. We heard it from homeless kids and ones from homes with a stable income. And while we didn't lean into that statement, we did wonder what it was code for. Did it mean their parents couldn't make the rent and didn't want kids to they just blamed the move on the neighbours? Did it refer to domestic violence or drugs or other environmental factors? Or was it really just plain noise? Another thing that was consistently said across groups had to do with dogs. Kids everywhere talked about being barked at, bitten by, and generally displeased with dogs. Maybe you have a very good boy at home...but a lot of kids are having to manage community spaces where they are feeling threatened by these animals.While neither of these pieces made it into our final survey, they will be reflected in our final display.

Also during that time frame, we worked with a carpenter to build the six frames (one example is above) and 12 boards (one is in the background of the picture above). We partnered with a local upholstery shop to test out different threads and put in our order for our final choice. We secured the rest of the materials we thought we'd need.

By the first week in March we transitioned to the individual surveys. Here are five questions we identified:
  1. I am in grades Kindergarten, 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5.
  2. If I see someone new at school, I introduce myself.
  3. It is important to me to know my neighbors.
  4. I try to build relationships with my neighbors.
  5. I do things in my community that make a difference.
Because the beads are on a ring, we needed a way to consistently tell which question was the first one. But this wasn't quite enough, because even if you could identify question number one, you couldn't tell which was question two. So, we ended up creating two questions with binary answers and using two sets of colours (white, grey for Q1 and beige, brown for Q2) to start things off. Questions 3, 4, and 5 use a three-response option (often, sometimes, rarely).

We were able to get one afternoon of surveying in before schools were closed. If things were different...if this pandemic was something that would have swept through in a month and been gone...then we did have a plan to capture more data. Our Boys and Girls Clubs are open to provide childcare for first responders and other emergency service workers (in addition to their regular groups of no more than 50) and we could have asked them to do paper surveys and then string the beads later.

We also identified the questions from our statewide Healthy Youth Survey to pull from district-level data. Here are the questions we intend to showcase for each of the six districts, as a way to compliment the data from the six clubs in their respective areas:
  1. There are adults in my neighborhood or community I could talk to about something important.
  2. My neighbors notice when I am doing a good job and let me know.
  3. There are people in my neighborhood who encourage me to do my best.
  4. There are people in my neighborhood or community who are proud of me when I do something well. 

We did not write the five questions for the community survey during Arts Walk (the interactive part with the string). We do intend to have one question that is the same for both the K - 12 survey and the adult survey. I suspect it will be question 3 or 4.

I won't pretend that the answers for six months from now won't be vastly different. At least, I suspect they will be after we get through this crisis. I think we will look at neighbours and our roles and responsibilities to the community very differently. I kinda wish we'd been able to finish this display before the outbreak...and then do something to look at these same questions through the lens of "after." 

For now, everything is frozen in time. The display...the launch of my bigger dream (The Data Lab)...and more. I am not the only one to find themselves in this situation. For all of us, we're in a type of stasis while other things get sorted out. I am trying to remind myself that this time to pause and reflect and rest will provide the resources to fight hard later.

And I will.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

We're Going to Need a Bigger Dream

There is an exchange between the two main characters in the 1954 version of A Star Is Born that often sticks out in my mind. James Mason's "Norman Maine" has just discovered Judy Garland's "Vicki Lester." And as they get to know each other, the dialogue goes like this:

Vicki Lester: [Norman has finished looking through her scrapbook] You know as much about me as I do myself. But... you see how long it's taken me to get this far. Now, all I need is just a little luck.

Norman Maine: What kind of luck?

Vicki Lester: Oh, the kind of luck that every girl singer with a band dreams of - one night a big talent scout from a big record company might come in and he'll let me make a record.

Norman Maine: Yes, and then?

Vicki Lester: Well, the record will become number one on the Hit Parade, it'll be played on the jukeboxes all over the country... and I'll be made

[laughs self-deprecatingly at the implausibility]

Vicki Lester: End of dream.

Norman Maine: There's only one thing wrong with that.

Vicki Lester: I know - it won't happen!

Norman Maine: No, it might happen pretty easily - but the dream isn't big enough. 
Someone once reminded me that we don't all have James Mason character's in our lives...someone who suggests that you shouldn't settle for the little dream...that you should move on to the bigger one. And this has been sitting with me as I've started down this road of the community-based data story that I described in the previous post. With every conversation, the dream gets bigger. This is mostly because it isn't just my dream anymore. Each person breathes a little more life into it and it is slowly inflating like a beautiful balloon. It also feels so much lighter and easier to carry as it grows. And while this seemed counter-intuitive to me at first, I have realized that with more and more hands to lift it, maybe it does make sense that my part isn't as heavy. I have also noticed that when I start to feel tired or overwhelmed by this whole thing that someone else steps up to offer to schedule the next meeting or make the next phone call. It is not dependent solely upon my focus and energy. Others are going to ensure that it happens.

I have never had this experience before, and I have to say that it feels pretty magical. It still feels a bit terrifying at, can we really do this? And I also have brief periods of, is this really happening? But I am treating this like an adventure, or at least a journey of sorts. I am meeting all sorts of characters along the way. I am learning, sometimes the hard way, about questions I should ask and things I should have prepared for. Yet, we are moving forward with this grand design. A very chatty carpenter is building a display. A local car dealership donated all the keyrings we needed. The owner of an upholstery shop has helped us find the right thread, after reminiscing about the designs he used to make. 

This is at once the most challenging, yet most fulfilling, thing I've ever done. There is power and energy here to make a difference and a lot of conversations about the future. It is exhausting, but oh so satisfying. Onward we go.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Creating Connections

I usually write about the data stories I build when they are complete. But this one is a little different and so I am starting its documentation at the beginning.

A few months ago, I was unhappy at work. The change in leadership has not been a positive one. I still love my job (and those people I have worked with over the years), which creates an interesting challenge. Some friends suggested that I just wait out the bad seed, as those never grow for very long. But I am 50 years old now. I have spent nearly all of my working life waiting for some dude to move on. I'm tired of that...and it doesn't do anything to create a better system for younger women, people of colour, or others from underrepresented groups.

So I pondered my options:
  1. Wait it out, as suggested. Hope new leadership is competent and supportive
  2. Look for a similar job to what I have now, since I like the work
  3. Do something different
But, why choose when you can have them all? Just going with Option 1 is untenable; however, I can't just up and quit, either. So, I'll just keep my head down and work and have as little interaction as possible with the leadership at hand. I'm not particularly interested in Option 2, as it would mean uprooting my entire life. There is a similar job to my current one that is posted in a district north of Seattle...and pays $50K more a year than I make now. On one hand, it seems silly not to apply for it. And, on the other, chasing money for its own sake is also silly. Option 3 is even riskier. Not that I haven't taken leaps before or that I feel too old to do so now. But I had to spend time really thinking about what that would be. If I could have any job I wanted, what would make me happiest? I realized that what I like the very best about my current job is working with people to use data to answer their own questions and tell their own stories.

Are there jobs like least in how I envision them? Kinda. There are things like We All Count, and DataKind, and The Data Lodge. They all have some pieces I like. I've described a bit of what I want in a previous post. As I thought more about putting something like this together, I realized that I would need to build up some demand for it. I would probably need to keep my day job (sigh) and do consulting work on the side until I reached a tipping point of time and money to make the jump to "dream job" full time. And as much as I want it now, I also recognize that I just need 5 years to maximize my retirement options with the state. If I build capacity in the next few years, I can leave education knowing that when I reach retirement age, I will have all the benefits waiting for me.

How would I create the demand, I wondered? And then I thought about an idea that's been in the back of my mind for a year or two. People who have my role in other school districts often tell me that they wish they could build these stories, too...or at least that we could do one together. Why not start now? Better yet, what if we connected the work with a community-based organization (CBO) that was working on a strategic plan or needed some large-scale input? I remembered that I knew someone who was leading just such an organization. We had coffee one morning and the idea was off and running. I chatted with people in my role in neighbour districts...and the idea grew longer legs.

The final piece was to find a space for a display of the data story. Our town has an Arts Walk at the end of April, which seemed like a good opportunity. But what about the right place to host? I made a short list of spots in the middle of the event that I thought would have enough floor space for the design we had in mind. I reached out to the first one—our city's performing arts center—not expecting them to say "Yes." But they did, teaching me a very valuable lesson about being careful what you wish for...'cause you just might get it. They expect foot traffic of about 2000 people. 👀

Last week, I measured the space...met with one of the school districts involved (as well as the branch of the CBO we're working with in that area)...and tried not to be terrified of the enormity of what I've started. I am beyond excited about all of this, but it has been so long since anything positive has happened in my working life that I'm not sure how to mentally process this turn of events.

The Story
In my conversation with the leader of the CBO, he identified three major areas the advisory group of his organization had identified as issues students across the county are facing:
  1. Needs for support with mental health
  2. Lack of connection to others and community
  3. Lack of a sense of purpose or direction
It's important to note that the advisory group consists of people from the county courts, school districts, and business community—all of whom work with K - 12 students, but from different angles. They all see these issues as critical to address. My connection at the CBO said that he thought the second one was most important because working on that could lead to some gains in the other two areas.

Connection is a very powerful concept. Not only was there a ready-made analogy with all of the players for this data story, but it's something that everyone (regardless of background or age) can comment on.

The Plan
Yeah, yeah, I know. For my first time out, you think I could have picked a smaller bite to take. But that isn't how I roll. It's a good thing that I am a planner and I have a lot of support.

We'll spend the next month doing some focus groups and identifying 3 - 5 questions for an individual student survey. In March, we'll have 2,000 - 3,000 students respond to the survey by building a ring with pony beads, like the one shown at the right.
The colours of the beads will represent a scale, as yet to be identified. The rings are zinc wire keyrings. Each one is about 1" in size. We think we can make these items for about $200.

We're supplying frames with wire in them—much like a window screen, but much larger gauge. When a kid completes their survey, they will be able to attach it to the frame. There are six clubs/districts, so we'll have six sets of these. We'll connect these with some additional information supplied by districts to form a much larger structure.

And then, in April, we'll work on building the community response piece. Our plan is to do something like this:

The actual questions and categories will also be driven out from the focus groups. But the Arts Walk participants will add the strings as they pass through the space.

After the event, we plan to repurpose the student pieces into smaller, tabletop versions that are specific to a school district and can be displayed in other places for other conversations.

And then we'll see.  I'll keep you updated as this project continues to move forward. I have done this enough now to know that I need to stay flexible and that things never go 100% according to plan. There will be all sorts of things I haven't anticipated. Either this will be the starting point to a different world for me, or I will fail spectacularly. I am very much committed, regardless of the outcome. I will be footing the bill for this project out of my own pocket. I have skin in the game. Keep those good thoughts headed this direction.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Data Stories: The Next Chapter

When I started my data stories project in 2016, my goal was to build 10 stories in 10 months. Silly me. I had no idea of how ambitious a goal that was...or the twists and turns my journey would take along the way. Here I am in my fourth year of building these, and I have finally completed number 10. But I think about possible ideas for more all the time, so maybe I should update my goals and vision for this work.

Will I stop building these for my school district? Probably not. I do see 10 as a milestone, mainly because it was the original intent of the project. But I love doing them and their impact on others has surpassed anything I'd imagined. I will tell you that women and people of colour engage with them far more than the white males in my organization. That is not an indictment of that group or how they best engage with data. I've just come to realize that I'm not making these stories for them...and that's okay. They have plenty of other data representations that they like. But for everyone else, there is a sense of wonder and recognition in their awakening of sorts. I am making it sound more dramatic than it really is. It's just hard to describe how people who aren't pale males look at these stories and talk about if until that moment, they hadn't realized that this was the thing they were missing and someone finally showed it to them. Anyhoo, now that I've wallowed around in trying to learn how to build these things, I want to make sure I empower and equip others to do this, too.

Here are some ideas I'm thinking about pursuing in future stories...
  • I want to find a student or two in each school to give me a tour. I don't want the compliant, good-grade, class president type kid to do this. I want the one who is always asking for a hall pass. I want to see a school through the eyes of a first grader—what is the purpose of various rooms? what's the best part of the playground? I think these maps would be very interesting.
  • In a similar vein, I'd like to shadow students at different grade levels and track all of the things they touch during a school day. I wonder if I could build a physical tree map of these data—a shadow box with paper, wood, metal, and other materials in the proportion that students use them.
  • Thanks to data walking and participatory walks from Elastic City, I am thinking about what this could look like for our district. What sort of community data walk could I put together?
  • I continue to be intrigued by the concept of a "good school." I think there might be ways to capture data in the wild about this—the conversations that happen in the grocery store or at soccer games...the ones where parents and the community talk about us and come to their own conclusions. 
There are bigger things on the horizon, although they are still shrouded in fog. I would love a job where I work with groups to help them develop meaningful goals and ways to use related data (and have started on creating The Data Lab). I am interested in building more personal data stories to share (or sell). What would a novel look like? The life of a historical figure? My notebook is overflowing while my time allowance is not. Transitioning away from a steady paycheck and benefits toward the unknown is also not realistic at this time, but I continue to look for opportunities. I'm open to figuring it out. Dreams need time and space to breathe themselves into existence. In putting them out there, I am committed to seeing them develop.

For now, I am grateful for all I've learned over the last few shares...and the opportunity to share it with others. I am looking forward to the next chapter of the story and whatever is found on that page. I am already enmeshed in another data story project involving six school districts, our county-wide Boys and Girls Club, and city Arts Walk. I'll document some things along the way as we move data stories out further in the great wide world.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Ten: The Turning Point

In the fall of 2016, I set out to tell 10 data stories in 10 months. It was an ambitious, but naȉve goal. Oh, I suppose I could have done it as long as I told tiny tales (short stories?). That's not what happened. With each story I built, things got both larger and more detailed. The materials I used were a better quality. I learned to dance with The Muse, understanding that it could be weeks or months in between the visits that would generate ideas and propel me forward. I shared with others and it has all become so much larger than some little side project. It's become a way of thinking and discipline and a path forward into what I want to do next with my life.

So, here we are in the winter of January 2020. And 3.5 years after I started this whole thing, we have finally reached the 10th story...but certainly not the end.

This is a story about how well our district serves students who have only attended our schools.

The Data
There was a lot of data with this one...the most I have ever tried to represent. And while 18,500 data points might not be overly large if you're working with them in a digital format...trying to show them physically is a time-sucking nightmare. In the end, I think I found an efficient way.

I pulled longitudinal (grades K - 12) data for current seniors who have only ever attended a school in our district. There were 175 of them (out of ~600). I wrestled with which data sources to use for quite awhile. Part of the challenge is that 13 years is a lot of opportunity for data systems and data collection to change. In the end, I was able to gather attendance, discipline, health room visits, enrollment in special education or the free/reduced lunch program, and performance on state assessments.

Now, out of the 18,500 possible data points, "only" 10,000 or so had something that might require representation. For example, not every student received special services (and those who did were not necessarily served every year), we didn't start using our information system to collect health room visits until these students were in third grade, and state testing doesn't happen at every grade level.

But 10,000 is still a lot. And while two of these areas (special education, free/reduced lunch) were binary, the other four had quite a range. I had to decide what sorts of ranges might be important. For a couple of these (attendance, performance), there were some already established parameters (e.g., "chronically absent" = missing 10% of the days in a year). For discipline and health, I developed some reasonable, but arbitrary, ranges. Although this might be a little indefensible, it also has the benefit of protecting student privacy.

The Build
I went round and round with this one for a long time. I really wanted to build something like a game board and with the various stops (grade levels) to the end (graduation) I wanted to share some additional information about that year and the changes to both school system and the world at large. I still think this is a great idea for a future story, but I just couldn't make it fit this one.

Somewhere along the way, someone shared a link to work by Caren Garfen. Some of her data representations use buttons or dollhouse plates or other tiny objects. I think these are so very interesting. And while I didn't end up moving in that particular direction, it did inspire me to do some sort of series of objects. This is where I finally (!) had my big a-ha. What was a small object that had six sides for my six data sets? Sure, you're probably thinking of dice now...but I thought of a pencil. What a perfect object to use. Pencils are long enough to hold longitudinal data, but small enough that 175 of them will still fit in a reasonable space.

I marked the pencils in 1 cm increments, starting at the eraser, to represent each grade level. I put one to six dots on each side of the pencil (toward the end that could be sharpened) to designate which data set was represented on that side. Then, I used leftover paint from the On the Bubble story to encode the data. This was incredibly tedious and not as precise as I would have liked, but I made it work. I sharpened the pencils that represented students who were on track to graduate at the end of the year.

After the pencils were ready, I covered six 24" x 36" cork boards with material. Five of these were designated to hold the pencils and the other for annotations. I used painters tape at measured intervals
to mark the places where cup hooks would be to hold the pencils. I used a drill to create 350 tiny holes in the boards and screwed in the hooks. All that was left was placing the pencils, adding the annotations, and hanging the boards.

This is the most interactive visualization I have ever built. Each pencil can be independently turned so that viewers can investigate and see whatever story they want. I tried to be strategic about the sides of the pencils and which data sets were there. Attendance and performance are next to one another. Health room visits and participation in the free/reduced lunch program and neighbours. A viewer can look at the same side of every pencil at once, or pick a section (e.g., at-risk students) and look for commonalities. There's also a certain gestalt associated with seeing each elementary and how many students started there and are still with us. Even taking mobility out of the equation, there are very definitely some catchment areas where the overall instability is having some sort of impact on the ones who stay.

I thought a lot about labels for this story. For obvious (i.e., legal) reasons, I did not want to add anything to the pencils that would indicate gender, race, etc. I considered some summary data—for example, numbers or percent of females/males. But in the end, I decided to let the students label themselves. I emailed all of them and asked them for their five-word stories. Not all of them wanted to contribute, which was fine, but I liked the idea of pairing how they define themselves vs. how the system sees them. It's been awesome to read what they have to share.

Lessons Learned
This story took months. I first pulled data in early October...and it was just over three months before the final product was complete. My biggest lesson along the way had to do with  figuring out what happens when you have too much data. Just use a sample? Find a different story? Aggregate things? I won't claim I found the best solution, but it has been a very valuable thought experiment.

I also just had to trust the process with this one. There were several times when I wasn't 100% convinced I was on the right track. But I ended up with something incredibly personal, detailed, and very cool. The addition of student input has also been valuable. Kids have said how honored they feel to be represented, but I hope that in the long run, they will think about the imprints they leave behind and how those do or do not represent them accurately. Doing these data stories has certainly left an impression on me over these last few years...and in the next post, I'll share more about how I plan to use them to leave an even bigger impression in our community.

If you'd like to see more pictures or learn more about our data stories project in our school district, please visit the companion page on our district web site.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Coming Soon: The Data Lab

I know it's been quiet here...but I'm still around, thinking and working on various things. My latest data story will be complete this week. It's taken a few months to represent nearly 10,000 data points, but it is looking good. More on that soon.

But today, I want to commit publicly to what's next.

It's been a challenging year at work. I still enjoy my job a lot, but not necessarily the conditions I have to currently work under. Enough said. So, as I've been talking with others about this and pondering what I want to do, I have found myself thinking about what I want. What would my job look like? And in the midst of all that, I developed what I started calling "Crazy Idea #1" and "Crazy Idea #2."

Crazy Idea #1: Community-based Data Story
I've pushed out our district data stories into the community for the last couple of years, but what if I helped the community push out one of its own? What if I worked with an organization that needed community input on their strategic plan or other goals? What if we linked with other districts to leverage our data and resources?

And, crazy or not, this idea is in motion. I've identified an organization that is working to help students in our area build their capacity to connect with their neighbourhoods and community. I've talked with my counterparts in other districts about some data that we have in common to share. And soon, I'll be working with a few thousand students to create a data story that we will share at our city's spring arts walk. It's terrifying and inspiring...the perfect intersection of emotions to get me excited about going to work (regardless of whoever and whatever else is there).

But most importantly, I plan to use Crazy Idea #1 to launch something even crazier.

Crazy Idea #2: The Data Lab
You see, what I really want to do is support people in using data to answer their own questions and tell their own stories. And while not all of those stories need to take a physical shape, I can honestly say that getting your hands involved builds understanding. So, to that end, I want to develop a physical space for people to come and work with data.

I see this as a storefront in our downtown area. The front would have some retail options—journals, art supplies, all manner of sticky notes, and anything else you might need for capturing and representing ideas with data. But the biggest part of the store would be a conference space...something with flexible furniture, idea paint on the walls, carts with materials, a large screen, and anything else needed for learning. I see this as a place to host workshops on all sorts of topics, data walks, group work/planning, and more. It will be a lab for building stories. I want it to have a 3D printer and laser engraver and band saw.

And my audience? Being in the state capital, there are plenty of options—from lobbyists to state agencies to schools to community-based organizations. Most importantly, I want it to be a place where all are welcome and that underrepresented groups can have their voices lifted. I want to support and grow others.

But to get there, I have to build my reputation outside of school districts and demand among other organizations. I need some time to build capital (social and monetary) through consulting so I can have enough momentum to launch the physical space. Crazy Idea #1 is going to be one of those steps.

In the meantime, I have commissioned the logo you see above. (It's not finalized yet...we're still making a few edits.) I am teaching a class on data use at a local university this spring, and that will give me an opportunity to test out some hands-on workshop ideas. I've purchased a couple of domains. And I'm off to meet with the local center for women in business to try and get smart about that side of things.

When I talk about this idea with people who know me and know my work, they all see the potential. And while I know that they're biased (as am I), I've also never been so clear on what I want in my life...not even when I picked teaching for a career. I realize that there will be lots of twists and turns on the path ahead...plenty of setbacks and disappointments...and that the final product will be different from the vision I have now. But I accept that as part of the bargain.

What do you think? Any feedback on the logo or ideas? Are there people I should talk to who do similar work? What else would you advise?